On April 30th 2016 an article in the FAZ described the career and management philosophy of Inga Beale, the first female CEO of Lloyd’s of London. She firmly believes that the staffing policy of companies in the insurance industry should try to achieve a mix of employees that include people with various ethnic, religious and educational, and career backgrounds, the handicapped and those with varied sexual orientations – people such as Beale herself, who is open about her own bisexuality. This policy is captured by the buzzword “diversity”.
In a globalized world, companies with a heterogeneous workforce have a competitive advantage if they use this variation sensibly. Beale compares this to the composition of a rugby team, that needs heavy forwards, a wiry scrumhalf and very fast three-quarters in order to be a winner. Looking around Lloyd’s she sees too many white-skinned males wearing dark suits. Because she believes that diversity increases creativity and the degree of creativity impacts on the bottom line, she believes the industry is massively under-performing, and empirical studies confirm this belief.
Diversity cannot be effective, however, if it merely entails increasing the percentage of employees who vary from the social, cultural or physical norms in a society. How creative is it possible for even the most interesting mix of people to be in a strictly hierarchical organization with an internally focused orientation, with a culture of extreme specialization, where even job rotation is hardly ever practised? It has to be accompanied by structural change that is driven from the top, with customer oriented processes that ignore departmental boundaries. Furthermore, how do insurers reward their most creative staff? Most well-run companies have a system of identifying employees with management potential, rewarding them, fostering their talents and finding mentors for them. How many do the same for particularly creative people who have neither the desire nor the ability to be line managers, not simply rewarding them ad hoc for a bright idea, but giving them a career prospect?
As the renowned management consultant W. Edwards Deming pointed out, managers, not their employees, are ultimately responsible if things do not work out as they would like, because it is they who determine the framework, and the vast majority of employees want to do a good job. Without the right framework, the policy of staff diversity in insurance companies could end…